District 51 test scores improving, but proficiency lagging behind state

Results of the tests that replaced the Colorado Student Assessment Program this spring show many School District 51 students improved their scores year-over-year but still have some catching up to do to match the state’s average performance on new Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests.

A smaller percentage of District 51 third- through 10th-grade students scored proficient or better on TCAP math and writing tests this year than the state average and all but the district’s 10th-graders under-performed the state average on TCAP science tests. Seventh- through 10th-graders in the district surpassed the state average in TCAP reading tests by 1 to 3 percentage points, according to TCAP results released Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Education.

District 51 students outpaced the state overall in test score improvement between the 2011 CSAP test and 2012 TCAP tests. According to the Colorado Growth Model, introduced in 2009 to show whether students were growing their CSAP scores year-over-year to get closer to proficiency if they weren’t there already, District 51 students scored in the 53rd percentile for growth. The 50th percentile in the growth model represents average growth on TCAP this year in Colorado schools.

Andy Laase, District 51 executive director of academic achievement and growth for elementary schools, said the district’s growth is on the rise in most grades and subjects and is at its fastest pace in math and writing since the growth model was introduced. He said it may take some time for that growth to show more students in the proficient category because some are growing their scores while remaining below the proficient level in the unsatisfactory or partially proficient categories.

“Proficiency trails growth, typically,” Laase said.

District 51 Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen said he’s confident proficiency will eventually follow growth. In the meantime, proficiency levels varied this year across the district from 100 percent proficiency in third-grade math and reading and fourth-grade math at New Emerson School to 0 percent proficiency in math among R-5 High School sophomores.

R-5 Principal Anna Goetz said the alternative high school for students between the ages of 16 and 21 only gets to test its youngest and newest students with TCAP.

Among the 21 R-5 10th-graders who took the test, 74 percent scored in the “unsatisfactory” category in math and not all were in a school to take a CSAP test last year.

“None of them were proficient in math before coming to us,” Goetz said. “Students coming to R-5 are very, very low in math. The majority of our kids have never earned a math credit before coming to us. This number is not representative of our kids when they graduate.”

The district’s newest school, online program Grande River Virtual Academy, had fewer than 20 TCAP-taking elementary students so it only reported scores for seventh- through 10th-grades in its first year of operation.

Only the school’s seventh-, eighth-, and 10th-graders cracked the 50 percent threshold for proficiency, and then only in the TCAP reading test.

Mary Jones, District 51 executive director of academic achievement and growth in secondary schools, said Grande River is still feeling out which students best fit the online school format.

“These are kids who are trying an alternate route and sometimes they stumble,” Jones said, adding some students faltered because they may not have had enough support with the program at home or an online environment may not have been right for them.

Clifton Elementary School, which will start the last of its three years on a School Improvement Grant this month, continued to record better proficiency than it had pre-grant, but only about a third of students in third- through fifth-grade at the school performed at grade level on TCAP writing tests, and growth in all TCAP subjects was below the state average pace this year at Clifton.

Laase said the school has been working with new curriculum while trying to fine-tune teaching of that curriculum and trying to sort out why growth was slower than the state and district averages.

Other highlights of TCAP data this year include Scenic Elementary recording the district’s biggest leap in growth by placing in the 82nd percentile for growth in reading; District 51 middle school students having the largest growth among all grades and subjects in the district by placing in the 59th percentile for growth in math scores; and Nisley Elementary, despite scoring between 26 and 70 percent proficient in all TCAP subject areas, placing in the 75th percentile for math growth and the 73rd percentile for growth in writing.

Colorado public school students switched to TCAP tests this spring and will take them until a new statewide assessment is created to reflect statewide curriculum standards introduced in 2011-12.

Schools will continue to administer TCAP reading, writing and math tests in spring 2013 and spring 2014 and use TCAP science tests in spring 2013.

New science and social studies tests are scheduled to be introduced to students in spring 2014.


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